How to Stay Cool Without Wasting Energy

Many places across the country, including here on the west coast, are beginning to see unprecedented heat waves. Experts don’t expect summers to get any cooler. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can lead to heat edema, heat stroke and other health problems. It can be especially dangerous for older adults and very young children. It can also be just plain miserable. With things only anticipated to get harder, the ability to stay cool is becoming more and more important.

When temps skyrocket, many people will do just about anything to beat the heat. This might be fine for a couple of days now and then, but running fans and portable AC units for weeks at a time can quickly take a toll on your electric bill. Thankfully there are things you can do. Some low-tech tricks can help homeowners maximize cooling without using additional energy.

Opt for central air, and keep unoccupied rooms closed off

Central air conditioning refers to AC that is pumped through the ducts of your home. Central air is a bigger investment upfront. However, because it targets the entire home, you can comfortably keep the temperature set higher than with a portable AC. Portable air conditioners are available as window or floor units. They work well in a single, closed-off room. For larger spaces they typically need to be set at a very low temperature to be effective, using more energy. They also must attach to a window, often allowing hot air to seep in through the gaps.

Whether you invest in central air or stick with a portable unit, it is important that you’re only targeting rooms you or your family are actually using. You can save energy – and money – by keeping vents and doors closed to unoccupied rooms. Keep your air conditioner set at the warmest temperature that is comfortable.

Make sure your home is fully insulated

Like central air, adding insulation is an investment of both time and money. If you own, however, insulation is likely to pay for itself pretty quickly in reduced energy costs. A well insulated home is better at keeping cold air in and hot outside air out. Not only will keeping your home fully insulated – including walls and attic spaces – keep your home cooler in the summer, it will also stay warmer in the winter. You’ll be able to rely on air conditioning and heating less, resulting in big savings over time.

How to stay cool without wasting energy

Open windows when the temperature drops

When it’s really hot, it can be tempting to keep fans and AC going day and night. You can save a lot of energy taking advantage of cooler night temperatures instead. Open up windows – and doors, if you’re awake – in the evening when the temperature drops for the night. (Nighttime is also an ideal time for cooking or other activities that create excess heat.) You can also use fans strategically to create a cross-flow that pulls in cooler air while dispelling heat. When it begins to warm up again in the morning, close all of your windows back up for the day.

Keep blinds and curtains closed during the day to help keep hot air out and cool air in. This can lower the inside temperature by as much as 20 degrees. Blackout curtains can make an even bigger difference.

Switch ceiling fans to counter-clockwise

Most ceiling fans can be set to either clockwise or counterclockwise. Clockwise is ideal for helping distribute heat around your home during winter months. To stay cool when it’s hot, it’s most effective to set ceiling fans counter-clockwise at a high speed. According to experts at The Home Depot, counterclockwise fan blades push a column of cold air downward, creating a noticeable drop in temperature.

Take cool showers

The best way to lower your body temperature quickly – Get wet! Cold or lukewarm showers are a quick and easy way to stay cool. Quick showers can be repeated throughout the hottest part of the day and before bed. You’ll lower your body’s core temperature and also rinse off excess sweat, making you feel instantly more comfortable. (Note – Slightly warmer water helps increase blood flow, allowing your body to release more heat.) Wet hair can also help keep you cool. For small children, who can be extra prone to overheating, a room temperature bath can be a fun way to stay cool and safe.

How to stay cool without wasting energy

Invest in temp control window film

Temperature control window film is designed to block heat and UV rays without blocking views. It is installed by a professional and can reduce your in-home temperature by almost 50%. Like air conditioning, window film installation is an investment that will cost upfront. Unlike air conditioning, it is a one-time cost that will continue to save you money over time. You’ll stay cooler and rely less on energy-burning AC or fans. In colder seasons the same window film will help hold heat inside your home, lowering your winter heating costs as well.


This list mainly suggests changes you can make to keep your home cooler consistently. During hot weather it is also important to play close attention to your own body temperature. Drink plenty of water and spritz yourself intermittently with water to stay cool throughout the day. You can also apply ice or a cool washcloth to pressure points, where blood flows closest to the surface. Some of these points include the back of the neck, inside of wrists and elbows, and the tops of the feet. (Simply keeping your header feet cool can play a big part in making you feel cooler.)

Hotter weather is our new reality, with record highs many of us have never experienced before. It will continue to become more crucial that we are able to keep ourselves and our homes cool, including making changes that help us stay cool without having to pay a fortune in energy costs. Some of these upgrades may be expensive upfront but will pay for themselves in the long run in both comfort and monetary savings. Both energy-saving and heat-reducing features also add to the overall value of your home.

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